WALVIS BAY - The fishermen who were rescued after their vessel caught fire last Sunday off the Namibian coast opened up yesterday about their near-death experience.
Some of them said they are struggling to cope or process the ordeal.
They said they thought they would die and feared their remains would not be found like many who are still lost at sea.
The 15 fishermen were rescued on 15 January after their vessel, Charlene, owned and operated by Seeheim Fishing, caught fire and sunk.
The incident occurred at the fishing grounds in the Namibian Exclusive Economic Zone.
The workers, who asked not to be named out of fear of victimisation by the company, said “we could have died, but it is as if the company is not taking that into consideration.
They gave us N$5 000 each for the loss of our personal items.
We have yet to receive counselling, but still we are expected to go back to sea soon.
Wearescaredandemotionally broken,” one of the fishermen told New Era yesterday.
The payments are confirmed in an email seen by this publication.
Narrating their ordeal yesterday, the fishermen said they left around 08h00 with three other vessels to the fishing grounds.
According to them, they smoke coming from the stern side of their boat, and immediately alerted their captain.
“We were sleeping when the fire started. Our captain immediately gathered all crew members and told us to put our life jackets on while waiting to be rescued.”
According to them, three gas bottles exploded. It took an hour for them to be rescued by fellow vessel Thunnus.
Some of them sustained serious injuries and were hospitalised at the Welwitschia Private Hospital in Walvis Bay.
The sad part, they say, is the company does not care about their social wellbeing.
“We are seasonal workers and it seems like the vessel was more valuable than us. What would have happened to our families if we died at sea that day?” a fisherman asked.
According to the crew, some of them are constantly dreaming of the accident, while others cannot sleep or have been crying since the ordeal.
A manager of the company refused to comment on the incident last week.
“No, we won't be commenting or issue a statement,” he said.
Ministry of Works and Transport’s spokesperson, Julius Ngweda said they are investigating the incident.
“The circumstances around the incident are not clear at this stage. However, we can confirm that a report was only submitted on 20 January by the company,” Ngweda said.
According to him, the vessel’s certificate was valid until 17 November 2023, having been issued on 28 November 2022.
“The ministry will commission a full investigation to assess and review the circumstances surrounding this incident in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act, Act 57 of 1951, as amended and the IMO Code of the International standards and recommended practices for a safety investigation into a marine incident,” he said.